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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 Houston Texans

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Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2023 fantasy football season. All summer, our analysts, two at a time, will preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. We’ll pick a pair of sleepers, a pair of busts and a pair of bold predictions. Sometimes they’ll be the same pick! Sometimes they will directly disagree! And that’s fine. Today: The Houston Texans.

 

Below, Jeremy Popielarz and Michael Dolan tackle the Texans, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2023 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: Houston Texans

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

Popielarz: John Metchie
Dolan: Tank Dell

Biggest Bust

Popielarz: Dameon Pierce
Dolan: Robert Woods 

Bold Prediction

Popielarz: C.J. Stroud is the No. 1 rookie fantasy quarterback
Dolan: Dameon Pierce is the “unsexy” pick you want to make

The Explanations

Sleepers

Popielarz: John Metchie

John Metchie missed all of last season after he was diagnosed with leukemia. He is ready to go this year now, which is of course great news. At Alabama, Metchie was highly productive producing back-to-back seasons of 900-plus yards and found the end zone 14 times over that span. He has a great combination of speed and fluidity in his game that allows him to dominate defenders. 

He is walking into a great opportunity in 2023, as the Texans have no proven talent on their roster at wide receiver. Metchie could command a significant target share on a team that will likely be playing from behind more time than not. C.J. Stroud is a ball placement magician, which should pair great with Metchie’s ability after the catch. He might struggle to find the end zone on an offense that won’t be great, so he might have a limited upside. But I think there’s a strong chance Metchie can become Stroud’s favorite and most reliable target, which could carry him to a WR3 finish or better.

Dolan: Tank Dell

Even though investing in the Texans passing offense may feel gross, someone’s ultimately going to wind up catching enough balls in this offense to provide fantasy value. I’m not buying that Robert Woods is going to come in and demand the No. 1 role in an offense that’s clearly looking toward the future. Instead, if I’m taking a flier on someone producing in this offense, I want third-round rookie Tank Dell.

No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud apparently requested the Texans draft Dell, and he got his wish on Day 2 of the draft. Even though Stroud and Dell didn’t play together at school, we’ve seen numerous rookie QB/WR duos have success right away in the NFL. If I’m aiming for upside in the Texans offense, give me Dell in the hopes that he’s this year’s surprise rookie. Plus, the cost to acquire him is essentially free.

 

Busts

Popielarz: Dameon Pierce

Dameon Pierce had a strong stretch in Weeks 3-5 last year, when he produced 66.4 PPR points (38% of his total) and finished as a top-12 fantasy option each week. From there, he stayed strong, if a bit below that threshold, with six more performances of double-digit fantasy points (all top-24 weeks). Pierce missed the last four weeks of the season to injury. But while healthy, Pierce put up 0.28 forced missed tackles per attempt, first in the league among players with at least 125 attempts. That’s how he accumulated 722 of his 939 yards after contact. 

Dameon Pierce Houston Texans Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions

That’s the good. But as we head into 2023, I don’t buy it continuing. The main thing holding him back was a lack of touchdown production (4), and the Texans did not do much this offseason to improve that touchdown outlook. They added a potential franchise quarterback in C.J. Stroud, but this offense is still full of holes and will likely struggle again. Add in the fact the Texans brought in Devin Singletary, who will limit Pierce’s overall touches, and it seems like he is no better of an asset than he was last year. That wasn’t bad, but it’s a low-upside role that won’t be a very important one for fantasy.

Dolan: Robert Woods

I mentioned above, but to say it again, I’m not buying into the Robert Woods WR1 in Houston hype this year. Calling Woods a bust may feel harsh given his ADP is so low right now, but even at his low cost, I’m not envisioning Woods as anything but a fantasy disappointment in 2023.

Woods played a full 17 games in 2022 and logged a measly 527 receiving yards. His age (31) has me concerned, because his production is trending down fast, and he’s not getting any sort of a landing spot bump in Houston. The Texans don’t have any long-term incentive to force Woods into the offense, and I think it’s going to be the young guys who see the most snaps come season’s end. In my opinion, Woods is on the team simply to serve as a veteran presence in the receiver room. That’s a role that could add value to an NFL locker room, but unfortunately it doesn’t do anything for fantasy football.

 

Bold Predictions

Popielarz: C.J. Stroud Is the No. 1 Rookie Fantasy Quarterback

C.J. Stroud was the second quarterback selected this year, so this may not be that bold, but there are plenty of doubters out there. Stroud is one of the most accurate quarterbacks we have seen enter the league in years, which is going to translate easily to the NFL. Over the last two years at Ohio State, he produced 8,123 passing yards, 85 touchdowns and a mere 12 interceptions on over 800 passing attempts. He led this class with a career 69.3% completion percentage and a 182.4 quarterback rating. 

Those abilities should continue with the Texans, who will likely build their offensive scheme off the run game and play action, which Stroud is familiar with. He does have a weaker supporting cast than he is used to, with a lot of unproven talent in the receiver room. On the other hand, the team has done well to give him weapons that mesh with his strengths. I don’t think this is going to be a prime fantasy year for any rookie quarterback, but even on a low-upside offense, I think Stroud can sneak into the top 15 at the position and outproduce his classmates.

Dolan: Dameon Pierce Is the ‘Unsexy’ Pick You Want to Make

This isn’t the boldest prediction in the world, but on a Texans team lacking a ton of excitement, you take what you can get. Dameon Pierce averaged 11.5 PPG (0.5 PPR) during his rookie season, and he’s in a prime position to maintain or improve upon those numbers in 2023. 

Pierce was arguably the foundation of the Houston offense last year, and he should have plenty of opportunity to play that role again in 2023. Sure, the Texans added Devin Singletary to their backfield, but I believe he’s more of a depth piece than a true threat to Pierce’s workload. With C.J. Stroud now under center, it would be wise for Houston to lean on Pierce and the ground game to ease the burden on their rookie passer, and I think that’s exactly what they’ll do. Pierce may not have the receiving chops or the supporting cast to provide league-winning upside, but his role, talent and stability should provide a solid floor at a position that’s notoriously tricky in fantasy football.

 
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